Making magic on the CN Centre stage

One of the five magicians who will be performing during the Champions of Magic show coming to CN Centre on Sunday said he knows live performance inspires children because that's how he came to do what he does.

Richard Young, one half of the U.K. illusionist team Young and Strange, said he was 10 years old when he saw David Copperfield and knew magic was what he wanted to do.

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To avoid the pitfalls of just being another act, Richard Young and Sam Strange knew they'd have to take a unique turn to create a successful show. When a magician friend put them in front of a mirror and told them to take a hard look - one's tall and thin, the other short and not thin - they knew it had to be magic with a strong comedic twist to it.

A perfect example of the comedy infused routine saw the pair take advantage of a live broadcast in Westminster while a broadcaster provided insight into the politics of the day on the lawns of parliament buildings. Young and Strange did an incredible shrinking man trick in the background and soon the quirky video went viral, anchored in the knowledge that humour is appreciated.

Young said you have to fit the part and gave Copperfield as an example of a hearthrob who would perform the dramatic illusions, while others who love what they do seemed to miss the mark on the approach they needed to be successful.

"I think that's why we've done so well and why people seem to like what we do - I think we're honest and true to who we are," Young said.

Young said he and Strange give a nod to the classic illusions but there's always something else that goes along with it.

"You can't just saw a girl in half any more, unless it's parody of a bygone era," Young said. "So if you're winking to the fact that magicians just used to do that, it will work but you just have to modernize it a little bit because you just can't do that any more. It's not the same as it was 30 years ago."

Young said when you think about it, those classic illusions really are amazing and then there's the twist.

"All the boxes are glass," he said of his version of the illusion. "So you see the girl being sawn in half."

Every form of entertainment has to evolve to appeal to today's audience, he added.

Young and Strange have created a twist on the classic developed by Houdini and his wife Bess called Metamorphosis. Bess was tied up and locked in a trunk while Houdini stood on top of it. They magically switched places as Houdini threw a sheet over himself.

"So Sam and I have really gone to town on this illusion," Young said. "We looked at this illusion with a fresh pair of eyes and modernized it and put an interesting spin on it with a surprise. We brainstormed it all and it's very ambitious. We literally invented a new magic principle to pull off the surprise."

Young and Strange weren't sure it was going to work.

"The first time we did it was in November in Salt Lake City," Young said. "It had never been done before. There were two aspects - is it going to work technically and is the audience going to like it? When you saw a girl in half on stage you know the audience is going to like it because it's a classic trick. It's been around a 100 years and it's a classic for a reason, you know?"

This trick was a little different and they were heavily invested in its debut in front of an audience.

"It went very, very well and when I came off stage I cried like a baby because I was so happy," Young said.

He equated magicians and musicians because in every musician's life he said there's a time when learning the notes turns to making your own music and the same goes for learning magic and then creating your own version.

"I think it's a very similar journey," Young said. "And then you're also giving back to the art, too."

The show features five different magicians including specialties like close-up magic, escape art, mind reading and the innovative illusionists Young and Strange.

"This is a show for families, especially those who have never seen a live magic show," Young said. "This is a really safe bet for a good night out for family. We know the kids are going to have a great time. They all see a bit of everything. It's very fast paced because there's five of us so we're all only doing our best stuff and it's a big production. We've literally got a big truck load of pyrotechnics and amazing lighting and big illusions."

Young said it was important to make the show as accessible as possible so tickets start at $20.

"Kids need to be inspired and seeing a live show is one of the best ways for it to happen," he said.

Tickets are on sale at www.ticketsnorth.ca.

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